From: Michael Breheny, Greenhope Mount, Leeds.
IN regard to claims about world poverty, while it is true that there is still quite a lot of poverty and hunger in the developing world, never have we lived at a time when so many are doing so well in the developing world.
In regard to world hunger, despite swings in world food prices, chronic hunger in the developing world has nearly halved, and one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, in regard to income.
In regard to a reduction in hunger, this is due to the ‘green revolution’ which began in the 50s and still continues to benefit the poor today. This has led to a rapid growth in food production and marked gains in nutrition. It developed new seeds, fertilisers and farming practices.
During the last 50 years cereal production in developing countries has increased three times, in contrast to previous chronic food shortages. According to various estimates, without the ‘green revolution’, food production in the developing world would be 20 per cent lower, food prices would be 35 to 65 per cent higher and average caloric ability would be around 12 per cent lower.
Because so many of the poor are farmers and spend such a high percentage of their income on food, it is quite clear that the gains in agricultural productivity in the last several decades have been a major force in beginning to reduce extreme poverty and hunger. In a majority of developing countries, average incomes have risen substantially since the mid-1990s.
Part of the improvement in nutrition arises from increases in average incomes.
As incomes have risen, people have been able to buy more and better food.
Also important is that many developing countries have invested heavily in health and education, out of high government revenues from free enterprise economic growth.
Because of marked improvements in education, this has led to increased knowledge of good nutrition, related to the education of girls (as future mothers), which has resulted in better diets and increased attention to the basic nutrition of infants and small children.
To be sure all this is not enough, and a billion people still live in extreme poverty.
The forces which have brought about an unprecedented reduction in world poverty, prove that the job of eradication of extreme poverty altogether, will happen.
Although economic growth is not the only driver of poverty reduction, it the most powerful driver.